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Hyde Park On Hudson Review

Director: Roger Michell

Cast: Bill Murray, Laura Linney, Olivia Colman, Samuel West, Olivia Williams

Running time: 95 minutes

Synopsis: American president FDR begins a love affair with his distant cousin, just as the King and Queen of Britain visit to curry favour and support for the impending war.

The Bill Murray renaissance continues, this time with him being awarded the highest accolade possible for an American actor: playing a real life US president. Murray appears to relish in the role, which comes as little surprise – his Franklin D. Roosevelt is the kind of sharp-minded, lethargic lothario recognizable from his work with Wes Anderson. Familiar perhaps, but enjoyable nonetheless. It’s another dry and memorable turn from Murray (who continues his campaign to be recognized as cinema’s best loved actor), and one that leads a multitude of fine performances – whilst HYDE PARK ON HUDSON’s central love story merely bumbles along, the cast ensure it’s a thoroughly enjoyable 95 minutes of re-imagined history.

Based on the supposed true-life affair between Roosevelt and his cousin Daisy (Linney), the relationship between the two is sweet enough but not enough to maintain interest throughout the film’s runtime. When King George VI and Queen Elizabeth arrive at the president’s Hyde Park residence, Roosevelt and Daisy’s liaison is brushed aside, and is never interesting enough to regain momentum. Whatever dramatic questions the affair poses are hardly worth answering – by the end it’s a pretty dull narrative thread.

Conversely, the Royal visit is a delight. Here the script explores the difficulties in connecting and expressing one’s self beneath the steely veneer of what’s ‘proper’. Perhaps most interesting is that the portrayal of George and Elizabeth comes so soon after THE KING’S SPEECH; Olivia Colman is fast becoming Britain’s brightest actress, and she shines as the stuffy Queen. Samuel West is also likable and sympathetic as the king who makes up in integrity what he lacks in confidence. The portrayals are more comedic and conflicted that Colin Firth and Helena Bonham Carter’s, but no less credible. Consequently, the banter between Roosevelt and the royal couple is riveting – funny and heartwarming in equal measure.

Though HYDE PARK ON HUDSON is by no means perfect, it will sit comfortably alongside Bill Murray’s other work in the last decade. It’s proof that a great actor (and in this case several) can turn an average script into a solid and charming film.

 HYDE PARK ON HUDSON is out in cinemas today, this was originally reviewed at the London Film Festival and you can find our coverage here.

Tom Fordy is a writer and journalist. Originally from Bristol, he now lives in London. He is a former editor of The Hollywood News and Loaded magazine. He also contributes regularly to The Telegraph, Esquire Weekly and numerous others. Follow him @thetomfordy.

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